How Best to Show Recognition & Appreciation for Your Employees

August 16, 2018

In the August Round Table meetings, we discussed the topic of “How Best to Show Recognition & Appreciation for Your Employees.”

Dave Casterline, Executive Director of Three Rivers Health Foundation, will continue this theme at our upcoming Leadership Breakfast on August 17th. Click here to save your seat and hear Dave speak on the topic of “We’re Building People, Not Companies.”

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Below are the notes from the August Round Table meetings.

Birmingham Round Table:

Q1: What are some ways to recognize employees in business?

  • Time off
  • Community service groups
  • engagement in outside activities on behalf of company
  • cash
  • career ladder
  • voice
  • reward
  • growth
  • personal notes of thanks

Q2: When should you show appreciates to employees?

  • Individual focused – Everyone is different.
  • People work for a person, not a company.
  • CBRT – Major mission – “Noblis Oblige” – To whom much is given… need to share more with young people.

Q3: Could/should certain practices be avoided?

  • Separate recognition and coaching – never same time.
  • Paying attention to phone and not the relationship.
  • Avoid participation trophies and employee of the month/year etc.

Q4: What will you do differently in the future?

  • Need to form … – Broaden people’s knowledge.
  • Assign mentors to young people.
  • Create matrix.  Activity for each quarter.

Takeaways for today:

  • Western Heritage – Hillsdale
  • Address proper balance – Personal, job,
  • Customizing recognition to individuals. Prepare a matrix. Ask: How does this person want recognition.

Kalamazoo Round Table (Thursday):


  • Previous generation operated with one mind – the mind of the boss. The employees were an extension of his mind.
    • Leadership was a dictatorship.
    • Micromanagement.
  • If you want to change the current culture, you may need to get rid of some managers who are unwilling to change – even ones with seniority.
  • What is the downfall of recognition culture?
    • Inconsistency.
    • Can create a level of jealousy.
  • The danger of current topic: may result in one way to show appreciation when each person wants to be recognized in a different way.
    • Some individuals are embarrassed by group/public recognition.
  • Can give too much recognition. It can make employees rely on recognition and cause them to be discontent.
  • Recognition must come from the heart of the leader.  Communicating your reward systems can do more harm than good. Can cause the employees to become critical of the leader when they don’t do what is communicated.
  • What is the biggest challenge? Time.


  • Recognition must be genuine – Standard forms of recognition can feel hollow (e.g. Employee of the year/month).
  • Compensation is not just money:
    • Ask what they need.
    • Take time to get to know them.
  • Ask your employees what type of recognition they like best.
  • Treat employees like human beings or recognition means nothing. Take time to greet/speak to each of your employees.
  • Biblical mentality – Romans 12 – Treat others better than yourself.
  • Servant leadership – it is not task oriented. Must put in the work to know your people.
  • Leaders need expectations communicated to them – a heart change may be necessary.
  • Emphasize that it is about people, not engagement scores.
  • Cash bonuses can foster entitlement. Use a variety of different methods.
  • Use reward system to foster behaviors you want.
  • BOOK: “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People” – Gary Chapman.
  • Yearly reviews are too infrequent. Schedule reviews more often.
  • The overloaded leader:
    • Show that you have time to answer questions or give employees resources when you can’t.
    • Be proactive, not reactive. Do you want to deal with a problem now or later?
    • Managers need small groups so that they can lead properly and effectively.
    • If your group is too large with your workload, consider hiring an assistant to give yourself more time to lead.

Kalamazoo Round Table (Friday):


  • Some employees may not like being recognized.
  • Employees leave their managers, not their jobs. Many individuals like their job, but are tired of the poor management.


  • Sincerity is key.
  • Showing recognition affirms their value to the company.
  • Types of recognition:
    • Writing note cards to say thank you
    • Know them well enough to know their strengths and give them an opportunity to build on them. Build that relationship.
    • Personal emails
    • A simple thank you
    • Gentle discipline. To be told the areas you can improve on.
    • Perfect attendance? More vacation time.
    • Gift cards
    • Cards from leadership on service anniversaries
    • Birthday cards
  • Make the culture in your group even if you can’t affect the entire company culture.
  • Show them that you trust them. Do not micromanage.
  • Failure should be seen as a positive learning experience.
  • Empower employees so they can flourish and do their job freely and creatively.
  • Invest in long term development so they can flourish and feel valued.
  • Provide special projects for them to show that you recognize their potential.
  • Employees need affirmation.
  • Systems need to be recycled or they become less meaningful/effective.
  • People assume that they know what you think – usually assume the negative. As a leader, be sure that you are clear.

Kalamazoo Round Table (Tuesday):


  • Everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated differently. Not everyone likes public acknowledgement.
  • Some people know how to play the system. They know how to display their qualities at an opportune time to get the recognition rather than demonstrating good character/work at all times.
  • Societal conflicts are eliminating the possibility of connection/bonding.
  • Generation gaps
    • Previous generation was happy with material compensation (mementos, pay, etc.)
    • Current generation wants personal compensation (investment in career development/training, sense of community/acceptance etc.)


  • Appreciation must be authentic.
  • Consider asking what would make them feel appreciated.
  • Consider a list for employees to rank which types of recognition they prefer.
  • Some people are simply self-motivated and don’t need recognition.
  • Don’t reward the task without validating the person.
  • Teaching and development can be forms of showing appreciation.
  • Trust and integrity are essential. Otherwise, it will be disregarded by the employee you are trying to thank.
  • Show them that you recognize that all work has dignity.
  • Management must not treat the team as second class. Remember that every member is necessary for success (For example: a good chef values his dish washer. He saves the other members of the kitchen valuable time so that the food gets out on time).
  • Unexpected ways to show appreciation: Investing in the work environment/building.
  • Leadership must get their team to understand that they are investing in the company, people, and mission. Give them a sense of purpose in their work. Answering “the why” explains their contribution and why they matter.
  • Millennials are no different than any other generation.  They are simply asking for what you only thought about.
  • Welcoming a new employee should be like welcoming a new member of the family.

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